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Women rose to new heights this year, notching milestones in entertainment, politics, sports, and science.
Around the world, women boldly stood their ground and inspired movements. Five million women in southern India formed 385-mile human chain to protest a temple being closed to women of menstruating age, Alaa Salah climbed on top of a car to make her voice heard in the civilian uprising in Sudan, 17-year-old Olga Misik boldly reminded Russia’s riot police of her constitutional rights to peacefully protest, and 16-year-old Greta Thunberg inspired the world with a fiery speech urging action on climate change at the United Nations.
In entertainment, Cardi B became the first solo woman to win the Grammy for best rap album, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel had the biggest opening ever for a female-fronted film, actress Sandra Oh made history three times at the Golden Globes, Ali Stroker became the first wheelchair bound actor to win a Tony Award, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought home six Emmys for Fleabag just as she inked a $20 million deal with Amazon Studios.
In the political sphere, Texas swore in a record number of black female judges, Nevada celebrated its female-majority legislature—the nation’s first, Rep. Nancy Pelosi retook the speaker’s gavel, Chicago elected Lori Lightfoot—the city’s first black, female, and openly gay mayor, and an historic six women announced campaigns for president.
Female athletes had an equally inspiring year: Jasmin Paris won the U.K.’s 268-mile Montane Spine Race (not only did she win, she beat the men’s record by 12 hours), Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in history, and Brigid Kosgei of Kenya set a new world record at the Chicago Marathon.
In science, Katie Bouman celebrated the first-ever photo of a black hole (she spearheaded the algorithm that led to the image as a Ph.D. student at MIT) and Christina Koch and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station in the first all-female spacewalk. Overall, women now make up a majority of college-educated workforce in the U.S., surpassing men for the first time in history.
And that’s just the beginning. Check out our video for a full recap of all the ways women won in 2019, from killing it in arenas that once excluded them (hi, Lilly Singh! Lizzo!) to demanding fair pay for excellent play (we see you, U.S. Women’s Soccer!). Prepare to be wowed.
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Kayla Webley Adler is the Deputy Editor of ELLE magazine. She edits cover stories, profiles, and narrative features on politics, culture, crime, and social trends. Previously, she worked as the Features Director at Marie Claire magazine and as a Staff Writer at TIME magazine.
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